Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Verb modes in Ps 24

What is the mood (or mode) of the the verbs in Ps 24:3 and 7/8? Here are the relevant bits of verses 3 and 7:

מִי־יַעֲלֶה בְהַר־יהוה (v. 3)

שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָאשֵׁיכֶם וְהִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם וְיָבוֹא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד׃ (v. 7).

In v. 3 I would have thought indicative rather than subjunctive, as the psalmist is not interested in theoretical possibilities but in actual facts. He is interested in "who is allowed to" and not "who might be allowed to." Or is there an implicit wish here, transforming the indicative to a subjunctive?

In v. 7 we have two imperatives and then a jussive. Is the jussive indicative or subjunctive? I associate jussives with the expression of wishes, and thus a subjunctive mood. It would seem, however, that the jussive here (following an imperative verb sequence) has the function of expressing either the purpose or the consequence of the previous imperatives. In that case it would seem to be indicative.

In short, there seems to be ambiguity in the Psalm concerning its modality, which is ironic given its dramatic tenor. Is there a note of personal yearning present, or are these just didactic/liturgical statements meant to communicate a theological point? Is the poverty of the conjugation system a hindrance to communication, or is the ambiguity intentional?

1 comment:

Bob MacDonald said...

Poverty? OK - but it is too rich for me to take in. That's a problem with the fine mesh of my brain! Lets some things in and prevents others. It is what cannot be said that must govern the translator - not what the text means, but its frame that holds the real word that the temple might receive its Lord. Then the translator's decisions will not inhibit the reception of the Word. The translation also is only a receptacle.